Five Tools For Showing

screen-shot-2013-11-20-at-3-24-03-pmSpoiler alert! If you were one of the eight people that read this blog two weeks ago, you are experiencing deja vu. I thought it was a good blog, but one thing I’ve learned over the last two years, is the title can make you or break you.

It was initially titled ‘Show Don’t Tell’. I guess that sounded kind of boring, or maybe just to repetitious. Goodness knows how many ‘Show Don’t Tell’ blogs are out there. So I’m reposting it under a new name 🙂

Here goes!

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard the phrase-show don’t tell. You probably saw the title and questioned even reading this blog. Everybody knows you are suppose to show and not tell. You want the reader to experience the scene as if they are one of the characters walking through the story beside the hero/heroine.

If you’re like me, you know what you’re suppose to do, but you don’t really understand what to do to make it happen. How do I show and not tell? It’s a lot harder than it seems. Once you start writing that novel, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

There are 5 tools for showing:

  • Dialogue
  • Action
  • Interior dialogue
  • Interior emotion
  • Description-Sensory

If you’re doing anything that’s not one of these 5 things, you’re not showing.

Why is it so important to show versus tell? Showing provides your reader with a powerful emotional experience. If you want to be a best selling author, that’s what you have to do.

It doesn’t matter how great you do everything else in that novel, if you’re missing that emotional experience, you lose. If everything you did is bad, but you have a great emotional experience, you may still win.

It all comes down to the take away. Every great novelist will tell you, you have to give your reader that powerful emotional experience, or they wont be coming back.

-Something to think about 🙂

-Jan R

Five Tools For Showing

Show Don’t Tell!

screen-shot-2013-11-20-at-3-24-03-pmI can’t count how many times I’ve heard this phrase. You probably saw the title and questioned reading it. Everybody knows you are suppose to show and not tell. You want the reader to experience the scene as if they are one of the characters walking through the story beside the hero/heroine.

If you’re like me, you know what you’re suppose to do, but you don’t really understand what to do to make it happen. How do I show and not tell? It’s a lot harder than it seems. Once you start writing that novel, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

There are 5 tools for showing

  • Dialogue
  • Action
  • Interior dialogue
  • Interior emotion
  • Description-Sensory

If you’re doing anything that’s not one of these 5 things, you’re not showing.

Why is it so important to show versus tell? Showing provides your reader with a powerful emotional experience. If you want to be a best selling author, that’s what you have to do.

It doesn’t matter how great you do everything else in that novel, if you’re missing that emotional experience, you lose. If everything you did is bad, but you have a great emotional experience, you may still win.

It all comes down to the take away. Every great novelist will tell you, you have to give your reader that powerful emotional experience, or they wont be coming back.

-Something to think about 🙂

-Jan R

Show Don’t Tell!

Dead Verbs Don’t Move

imagesWhen you are writing a novel, you want to use concrete, everyday verbs. Examples of these are jump, smile, run, look, show, and eat. You can picture the actions in your head and there is no ambiguity.

He ran down the street and jumped over the fence.

Replace weak or dead verbs with concrete verbs as often as possible. I say as often as possible, because there will be rare occasions when the weak or dead verbs are necessary.

Weak verbs usually end in ‘ate’ or ‘ize’. You know the ones. Some examples are finalize, incorporate, anticipate, categorize. They leave a vague sense of action without spelling it out. As a reader you have to reach for it, and these verbs can really way down your sentence.

The bookkeeper utilized her expertise to manipulate the numbers.

Dead verbs don’t evoke movement or images. They stop the action. They allow us to generalize instead of provide the details necessary to picture what is going on. They tell us what’s happening when we want to see. Examples of dead verbs are was, is, were, are, could, had. I think you get the picture.

Cassandra was angry.

Cassandra picked up the flower vase and threw it into the wall. She stomped across the room, slamming the door as she left.

Something to think about. I hope this helped.

-Jan R

 

Dead Verbs Don’t Move

What’s In Your Toolbox?

tools-for-insights-into-your-display-advertising-compete-pulse-kwccu6-clipartSo as a writer I find myself relying on numerous sources for information. I need to know how to write a cohesive, well written sentence, but I also need facts, and I need to know what to look out for. We all make errors when writing and goodness knows I will never be perfect, but I do have some reference sites I use to make my writing better.

I thought I would share those with you and ask that you share sites that have been helpful to you as you navigate the world of writing fiction.

I’m not going to include a dictionary or thesaurus in my list, as I feel they are a given. I would recommend if  you have access to a smartphone to ask Siri for spelling, definitions and synonyms. She can find the information and give it to you in a matter of seconds. I keep her next to me while I write.

Other tools that I use include:

  • Emotion Thesaurus – Look up the emotion you are trying to express and you get a list of actions, facial expressions, and sounds commonly associated with the emotion. Example:  Shock/Surprise-  small gasp, heavy feel in the stomach, reaching hand up to lightly clasp throat, flayed hands across chest, a shaky voice-soft-halting-unbelieving.

I found a free emotion thesaurus online but was unable to locate more than excerpts while writing this blog. They aren’t expensive and can be purchased on line and saved to your laptop for easy access.

  • grammar.about.com-200 common redundancies – is another great site for writers. I was amazed at how often I added redundancies to my writing. Examples: (brief) moment, circulate (around), (current) incumbent, disappear (from sight)-I think you get the gist.

You can find this one online for free. It gives an extensive list and gets you to think about what you are writing. Are you using redundant words?

  • worldatlas.com – get the facts about the countries your characters are moving through. You want to pull your readers in and make the settings believable. The world atlas provides information such as weather, language, currency, time zones, religious beliefs.

My main character spends a brief period of time in Afghanistan. The world atlas along with other research, provided information I needed to make that chapter believable.

  • wsu.edu/brians/errors/errors.html- is another great site that provides common errors made in English writing.

Hope these sites are helpful to you. I have visited and used them all. The only caution I would give is with the ‘world atlas’ site. I get a lot of pop-ups and advertisements while navigating through for information. I’m not sure if it’s just my computer or if it’s common to this site.

-Jan R

 

What’s In Your Toolbox?

On-The -Nose-Writing

images open bookWhat is on-the-nose writing? It’s the number one writing mistake of amateurs. It’s prose that mirrors real life without advancing your story. No one chooses to write this way. It has nothing to do with your ability to put together a sentence, paragraph, or scene. Even pros have a hard time with it.

I’m a big fan or Jerry Jenkins and recommend his blog to anyone reading my posts. I have gained so much useful information from him, and he writes in a way that anybody can understand. He’s a great teacher.  With this being said, I’m using an example that he gave to help you understand on-the-nose writing.

Paige’s phone chirped, telling her she had a call. She slid her bag off her shoulder, opened it, pulled out her cell, hit the Accept Call button and put it to her ear.       

“This is Paige,” she said.

“Hey, Paige.”

She recognized her fiancé’s voice. “Jim, darling! Hello!”

“Where are you, Babe?”

“Just got to the parking garage.”

“No more problems with the car then?”

“Oh, the guy at the gas station said he thinks it needs a wheel alignment.”

“Good. We still on for tonight?”

“Looking forward to it, Sweetie.”

“Did you hear about Alyson?”

“No, what about her?”

“Cancer.”

“What?”

Here’s a good example of how that scene should be rendered:

Paige’s phone chirped. It was her fiancé, Jim, and he told her something about one of their best friends that made her forget where she was.

“Cancer?” she whispered, barely able to speak. “I didn’t even know Alyson was sick. Did you?”

We don’t need to be told that the chirp told her she had a call, that her phone is in her purse, that her purse is over her shoulder, that she has to open it to get her phone, push a button to take the call, identify herself to the caller, be informed who it is.  I think you’re getting the point.

This is a good example of dragging dialogue as well.  It’s not necessary and adds fluff without any real purpose. Don’t distract with minutia. Give the reader the adventure they signed up for when they chose to purchase your book. Take the reader with Paige when she says:

“I need to call her, Jim. I’ve got to cancel my meeting. And I don’t know about tonight…”

Remember show don’t tell is one of the most important aphorisms of the writing life.

-Jan R

On-The -Nose-Writing